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Hub for Good

Meet Amisha. Amisha Agarwal is a Carleton alumna (BScHons/12), a mentor in Carleton’s Alumni Mentors program and a methodologist and team lead at CHEO.

2020 is a big year for Amisha. On April 1, she celebrated a milestone birthday—the big 3-0. As her special day approached, she knew she wanted to do something a little different to celebrate this year.

“I look forward to my birthday every year—even more so this year, as it was my 30th,” Amisha admits. “As this was a big birthday, I wanted to do something special. I wanted to differentiate this birthday from past birthdays and set the tone for the next decade of my life. So I asked my friends and family to bring to my party a few items for the Ottawa Food Bank instead of cards or presents.

“I’ve always enjoyed fundraising. I was part of many fundraisers growing up and in university, but I haven’t been as active lately. I thought this would be a great way to get back into it, and to encourage my friends and family to get involved, too. I thought it would be fun to collect and donate 30 bags for my 30th birthday, so I called the event ‘30 for 30’!”

Unfortunately for Amisha—and as has been the case for many of us—the coronavirus threw a wrench in her plans.

“I had been planning this fundraiser since January, and I was very much looking forward to it,” Amisha recalls. “When COVID-19 struck, I obviously had to adjust my plans—but I was determined to find a way to make it work.

“I saw a post in mid-March by the Ottawa Food Bank that said it needed more help than ever; many of its pre-planned fundraisers were being cancelled or postponed, and the demand for its services was increasing due to the situation. That added fuel to the fire in me and made me even more determined to carry out my plans.”

After giving it some thought, the idea dawned on her. “I thought to myself ‘what is the one outing that people are still doing?’”

The answer? Groceries.

Amisha got to work on creating a virtual birthday party invitation, asking friends and family to pick up a few extra items on their next grocery run. The location of the party, she says, was indicated as ‘my porch or yours,’ meaning party ‘guests’ could drop off the items on her front porch or simply leave them on their own porch for pick-up by Amisha.

Throughout the entire month of April, Amisha’s friends and family stopped by to participate in her birthday fundraising challenge.

“It went so well,” Amisha says of the fundraiser. “I actually surpassed my goal—the 30 bags were overflowing with items, and there were even extra items that couldn’t fit in the bags. It felt so good knowing that we were helping a wonderful organization that protects and provides food and other essential items to our community’s most vulnerable families.”

The fundraiser, she says, was the perfect way to celebrate her birthday and ring in her 30s.

“Since my friends were coming by to drop off items for the Food Bank anyway, many of them brought me baked goods and other treats, too. We had a lot of fun chatting from afar and having driveway dance parties. In addition to doing something good for my community, I essentially got to celebrate my birthday with my friends and family—from a safe distance—all month long!”

While Amisha decided to lead this fundraising initiative for her own personal reasons, she does hope that it will inspire others to give back.

“I hope that this experiment of mine will show people how possible and relatively simple it is to carry out something like this,” she says. “Some people may not be able to make financial-based donations right now, but there are many opportunities to donate your time—whether it’s something small like checking in with family and friends, or volunteering with organizations that need extra help.

“I work at CHEO in a non-essential role and I have been volunteering regularly to help make PPE. You could participate in things like CHEO’s #sewhelpful campaign, where you sew masks to be donated. Or you could donate blood for the first time, like my sister (Kajal Agarwal) and cousin (Aanchal Agarwal) just did. There are so many great initiatives going on in the city—you just have to find one that works for you.”

Her advice to others during this time is to focus on the silver linings.

“I’m a very active and on-the-go type of person, and I struggle with just sitting still. This stay-at-home order has forced me to slow down—and it’s been a blessing in disguise for my body and mind. I’ve started practicing mindfulness every morning, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while; I now have the time to do it on a consistent basis. It’s amazing how just 10-15 minutes of focusing on your breath can change your mood for the rest of the day.

“Meditation may not be your thing, and that’s ok. Find what makes you feel happy, useful and positive during this time and do it!”

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